obelus

noun
obe·​lus | \ ˈä-bə-ləs also ˈō- How to pronounce obelus (audio) \
plural obeli\ ˈä-​bə-​ˌlī How to pronounce obeli (audio) , -​ˌlē also  ˈō-​ \

Definition of obelus

1 : a symbol − or ÷ used in ancient manuscripts to mark a questionable passage
2 : the symbol ÷

First Known Use of obelus

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for obelus

Middle English, borrowed from Late Latin, borrowed from Greek obelós, odelós (Doric) "spit, four-sided pointed pillar, obol, line in a manuscript marking a passage as spurious," perhaps of pre-Greek substratal origin

Note: The b/d variation has led to the assumption of an original labiovelar *gw, though d would be expected in Attic-Ionic rather than the normally occurring b; obelós has hence been explained as a borrowing from an Aeolic dialect. In the sense "obol" (a weight and coin valued at 1/6 of a drachma) obelós has a variant obolós; the medial o is an alleged instance of vowel assimilation. The need for special explanations to account for the idiosyncrasies in these forms has led to the hypothesis that the etymon was a loanword from a pre-Greek language.

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about obelus

Dictionary Entries near obelus

obelisk

obelism

obelize

obelus

Oberammergau

Oberea

oberek

Statistics for obelus

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for obelus

The first known use of obelus was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Comments on obelus

What made you want to look up obelus? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

an act or instance of returning to life

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!